Revealed: Where offshore firms have bought up land and property in North Herts

Land Registry records have revealed where land and property has been acquired by offshore-registered

Land Registry records have revealed where land and property has been acquired by offshore-registered firms. File photo. Credit: Getty/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Offshore firms have bought property and land in North Herts including Hitchin Priory, Land Registry records have revealed.

Land and property has been acquired by companies based in tax havens from Guernsey in the Channel Islands to Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands.

The most expensive acquisition for which we know the price is the £14,950,000 purchase last year of the leasehold for land off Letchworth’s Jubilee Road by Jersey-based BNP Paribas Securities Service Trust Company Ltd, an offshoot of French bank BNP Paribas.

There’s nothing to stop foreign or offshore firms from buying UK property or land, and no suggestion these firms are doing anything illegal.

But where commercial property is sold on, a legal loophole means overseas companies do not have to pay the corporation tax that British people and firms do.

The loophole costs the British taxpayer billions of pounds.

Offshore companies can also serve to obscure who the ultimate owner of land or property is.

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In Hitchin, a firm based in Liechtenstein called Bellborough Ltd owns the freehold for Hitchin Priory and this year bought 9-10 High Street – housing Poundland and M&Co – for £5.25m.

Elsewhere in the town centre, firms from Bermuda and the Bahamas acquired the freehold for parts of Brand Street in 1999 and 2000.

Landowners in Letchworth’s industrial area include companies registered in Jersey, Bermuda, the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands – as well as German supermarket Lidl.

In Stevenage, 76 High Street – housing The Drapers Arms – is owned by a Cayman Islands company, Stonegate Pub Company Ltd, which paid £10 million for the site in 2013.

Stonegate, whose UK office is in Luton, also owns the Old Post Office pub in Stevenage town centre.

The phenomenon even extends to individual hotel rooms – as demonstrated by Land Registry records showing that four offshore firms leased rooms at Needham House in Little Wymondley in 2013 and 2014.

The companies in question are Salutation Holdings Ltd of the British Virgin Islands, Greenfield Property Corporation of Belize, Bonna Elite Ltd of Anguilla, and Bobochino Cap Pte Ltd of Singapore.